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Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosis

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Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosis


Almost everyone has suffered some sort of cut, scrape, or bruise. Individuals might have even broken a bone. Typically, people fully recover following these injuries; however, some traumatic accidents could lead to permanent complications. This is the case for people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

A TBI can cause life-long complications and require extensive medical treatments. If you or a loved one has suffered severe head trauma in an accident due to another person’s carelessness, you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries and damages. Call our injury lawyer at (415) 805-7284 for a free consultation.

What is a Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the term used to describe a blow to the head that leads to either a temporary or permanent change in the function of the brain. Because the brain consists of a network of neurons, damage done to these neurons is typically permanent. It is easy to see how this can lead to severe quality-of-life issues for a family. Furthermore, TBIs are more common than many people realize. According to statistics on TBIs that have been published by the Brain Trauma Foundation:

  • Among children and adults between 1 and 44, traumatic brain injuries are the leading cause of death and disability.
  • The age group most commonly affected by TBIs is the elderly, at high risk of suffering traumatic falls.
  • Every year, TBIs impact more than 2.5 million people.
  • Of these individuals, about 50,000 will die due to their head injuries.
  • Another 80,000 people will develop permanent complications and disabilities.
  • The most common reasons people suffer traumatic brain injury are slip and fall accidents, motor vehicle collisions, and being struck by an object.

Traumatic brain injuries are a severe issue that affects millions of individuals and their families annually. Since the complications of traumatic brain injuries are often permanent, it is essential to try and diagnose these injuries as quickly as possible. The faster the injury can be diagnosed, the quicker it can be treated. This translates into time saved and brain tissue preserved.

Diagnosis of a Brain Injury

The first step in diagnosing a brain injury is to figure out the mechanism of the accident. When someone arrives at the doctor’s office, hospital, or emergency department, the doctor is going to ask questions to determine the likelihood that a brain injury happened. Some of the questions that the doctor might ask include:

  • When did the accident happen?
  • Where did the incident occur?
  • Can you describe to me what you remember about the accident?
  • What kind of pains or symptoms are you experiencing?
  • Do you know your name?
  • Do you know where you are?
  • What are the date and time?
  • Has anything like this happened before?

The importance of these questions is to figure out precisely what the mechanism of the accident was, where the impact took place, and what type of symptoms the individual is experiencing. Some of the most common mechanisms of traumatic brain injuries include:

  • Car accidents: Without a doubt, one of the most common mechanisms of TBIs is motor vehicle collision. In a severe car accident, people can strike their head on the dashboard, the steering wheel, the door, or the window. This can lead to a skull fracture and a TBI.
  • Slip and Fall: A slip and fall is often benign for a child; however, this can be devastating for older adults. Furthermore, if the fall comes from a great height, this can lead to a TBI even in the healthiest people. Individuals can strike their heads on the ground when they slip and fall. This can lead to a brain bleed, a common type of TBI. These injuries can also be fatal.
  • Struck by an Object: Another common cause of a traumatic brain injury is an individual being hit on the head with an object prone to developing a traumatic brain injury. Depending on the location of the impact, the type of TBI can vary. To decipher precisely what kind of TBI is present, it is essential to accurately describe the timing and severity of the symptoms.
Symptoms of a TBI

After the physician has taken a detailed history of the accident and the injury, the next step is to describe the symptoms that might be present. The timing and severity of the symptoms help the doctor decide what type of TBI might be present and what he or she will do next. Some of the most common symptoms of TBIs include:

  • A headache: Undoubtedly, headaches are some of the most common symptoms of TBIs. The headaches vary in their location and severity. A headache described as the “worst of my life” is often worrisome for a brain bleed.
  • Loss of Consciousness: While not every traumatic brain injury will result in a loss of consciousness, this is a concerning symptom. It indicates that the impact was so severe that the brain has had its normal rhythm disrupted. Sometimes, the loss of consciousness does not occur with the impact but happens a few minutes or hours later.
  • Vision and Hearing Difficulties: Depending on the location of the TBI, an individual could have trouble with their hearing or vision. Any problems with these senses can help the doctor localize the brain injury inside the skull.
  • Memory Loss: Individuals who have suffered a traumatic brain injury might have trouble remembering exactly what happened. They could also have difficulty forming new memories.

These are only a few of the many different symptoms that could accompany a TBI. Some people may have one, a few, or all of the symptoms above. Every sign is vital in helping the doctor arrive at the proper diagnosis.

Using Imaging to Help the Diagnosis

Once the doctor has taken a complete history and performed a physical examination, the next step is the imaging. Not everyone who has suffered a blow to the head will need imaging of their head; however, if the mechanism and symptoms are concerning for a traumatic brain injury, imaging needs to be performed. The goal of imaging is to help the doctor figure out where the injury took place in the head and to grade its severity. Two common types of imagery are used in the diagnosis of a TBI. These are:

  • Computed Tomography: A computed tomography scan, often abbreviated CT scan, is usually the first imaging procedure performed. People can think of a CT scan as an X-ray in three dimensions. This scan takes only a few seconds and produces a 3D brain image. This scan uses radiation to create an image based on the density of the material through which it is passing. Light materials, such as air, appear black on the image. Heavy materials, such as bone, appear white. This scan is excellent at identifying fractures and bleeds; however, it is not great for looking at the structure of the brain tissue itself.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Magnetic Resonance Imaging, shortened to MRI, is typically the second scan performed. Not everyone will receive an MRI scan; however, if the doctor needs more information after the CT scan, an MRI could be ordered. This scan does not use radiation and produces a more detailed image, but it takes much longer. It is excellent at looking at the brain tissue itself and could even show an old TBI if one occurred. This machine uses strong magnets to produce its image, so anyone with metal inside the body (such as knee replacements, implants, or tattoos) should inform their doctor. They might not be able to receive this scan. Once the imaging has been completed, the doctor will make a diagnosis.
Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries

While all traumatic brain injuries are serious, many different types need to be considered. Every type of head injury is different, with varying levels of severity. Therefore, it is essential to understand a few of the most common types, what they imply, and how they are treated. Some of the most common types of TBIs include:

  • Concussion: A concussion occurs when a blow to the head leads to a transient alteration in the function of the brain. While a single concussion is unlikely to lead to any long-term issues, recurrent concussions could lead to long-term disability. One recent study showed that over 10 percent of concussions are repeat events. Therefore, all concussions must be taken seriously.
  • Cerebral Contusion: A cerebral contusion is a bruise to the brain tissue itself. This is often visualized on imaging. Depending on the severity of the bruise, it could cause severe symptoms that persist for weeks, months, or even years.
  • Brain Bleeds: This is one of the most severe types of traumatic brain injuries. A brain bleed occurs when one or more of the blood vessels in the brain is ruptured. Some of the most common types of brain bleeds are epidural hematomas, subdural hematomas, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. One study showed that as many as 80 percent of epidural hematomas occur due to accidental injury. If not caught early, brain bleeds could be fatal.

Some TBIs may not have long-term consequences, while others could be fatal. Some TBIs could even lead to lifelong consequences. It is easy to see how this can place a family under tremendous stress.

This animated video demonstrates the different types of traumatic brain injuries in patients ranging from 18 months of age to adults.

Contacting a Brain Injury Lawyer

When an individual has sustained a severe head injury, there are lots of questions that come up. Significantly, traumatic brain injuries impact the individual and their family and friends. Therefore, it is normal to have questions and concerns. Some common issues include the circumstances surrounding the injury and the quality of life issues that often result. Meeting with a San Francisco traumatic brain injury attorney can be helpful in these situations. Some of the ways that an experienced injury lawyer can help include the following:

  • Reviewing the accident records to ensure that all of the details have been addressed.
  • Making sure that the fault has been assigned appropriately following an accident.
  • Helping families seek damages that might be related to their injuries, their pain, and their suffering
  • Acting as an objective presence to help families make decisions during a difficult time.
  • Taking a case to court, if needed.

It is understandable for families to have questions following a traumatic brain injury. Everyone should remember that help is available and that they are not alone. For this reason, take a few minutes to speak with a traumatic brain injury attorney in San Francisco today. You and your family could be deserving of a financial reward.

Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers in San Francisco
If you or someone you know has suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident, please contact me at (415) 805-7284 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.

Editor’s Note: updated [cha 6.26.23] Attribution of Image: Pixabay.com dr cha ds [cs 1872]